Cultural Musings

Poland vs USA in the time of coronavirus

You’re probably staying at home a lot these days. I, for one, haven’t left the neighbourhood in about 2 weeks. Maybe you don’t know this, but things here in Poland and things back home in the States aren’t the same when it comes to COVID-19. I’d say the governments of both countries have handled things a bit differently, and people as well. This is the first time I can say I’m actually proud of the actions the Polish government has taken here.

Poland seems to have pushed social distancing from the very beginning of the coronavirus’s emergence here. Is it just me or has the USA seemed to try and pretend like it wasn’t a big deal until they absolutely had to? So far in Poland at this time (March 25), we have about 900 cases (population 38 million), and in Florida, where I’m from there are about 1,200 (population 21 million). So it’s about the same in terms of cases, although we have almost twice the number of people. Perhaps our measures are working… only time will tell.

How it looks in Poland

Poland has been essentially shut down since March 11 when schools were shut down. That means we’ve been home with a 2.5-year-old and a 4-month-old for two weeks… slowly losing it. I’m sure some of you have it worse. Other than that, things haven’t changed much for us as both my husband and I work from home and we’re together 24/7 anyway.

Not only schools were closed at that time, but also restaurants, parks, playgrounds, movie theaters, and malls, basically anywhere where there were lots of people, including the borders from about March 13. Even if you wanted to go somewhere, there’s nowhere to go. Just yesterday, the government in Poland ordered everyone to stay home unless they have to go to work, the grocery store, or the pharmacy. However, you can go one walks and meet with family (although whether that’s a good idea is debatable). I think these measures are entirely necessary, and we’ve been doing our best to follow them since the beginning. The faster we all do so, the sooner we can return to normal life.

Here it seemed like most companies just closed on their own following school closures, having most employees work from home if possible, without the need to be ordered to do so. I think this was wise, as companies were considering the health of their employees and the greater population. Overall, people really seem to be taking things seriously in Poland, mostly staying home and avoiding people. The #zostańwdomu (#stayathome) campaign has been quite effective here. Many cities are even boasting of their empty streets during this time. Take a look at Krakow, for instance.

What it looks like in the States

Unfortunately, it took a bit longer for this process to start in the States. I’d say they started getting serious about 2 weeks after us, and that’s a scary thought. Now many states are getting serious, even prohibiting people from conducting “non-essential business”, which I guess also applies in some way in Poland, but all workplaces haven’t been ordered to close yet. I just wonder how that works with small businesses.

Maybe it’s just the people I know or have heard about it, but it seems like a lot of people weren’t taking this seriously. People were going to beaches in droves for spring break just a week ago. They do seem to be practicing social distancing but are still going out, just trying to avoid contact with people. I don’t think that’s the point. The point is to stay home, hence the campaign #stayathome. Going out increases your risk of coming into contact with the virus, staying at home dramatically decreases it.

How we can help

As everyone knows, another unfortunate consequence of all this is that businesses are suffering. In Poland, people seem to really be pulling together to try and help restaurants and other small businesses. A popular restaurant in our area, Wine Bar Lofty, is even offering gift cards for 150 zł at the cost of 100 zł to give themselves a bit of a boost during this hard time. That’s a really cool idea and I hope people take advantage of it. I recommend everyone do as much has they can to help businesses nowadays.

To help our teachers who are losing students during this tough time, my company, Talkback, which provides English lessons with native speakers online, is offering packages of 10 lessons at 20% off. Please take advantage of this discount to boost your language skills and help out our teachers at the same time.

Also, STAY THE FUCK HOME, PLEASE. Big hugs and kisses after all this is over.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Steve K 26 March 2020 at 21:23

    Hi Leah.
    Quite. I think the British Government behaved in a similar way to Trump’s administration until they finally realised that this is not your regular seasonal flu.

    I think that the Polish Government was on the ball from the start, but some of the figures on gdziewirus.pl are just plain baffling. 234000 in quarantine? It was more like 30000 yesterday.

    I think that most Polish people are taking this seriously. Most of the cars in my street in Gdansk haven’t moved since last weekend. I see the very occasional dog walker, but that’s about it.

    Apart from throwing out the rubbish, I won’t be going out for some considerable time. I think I wisely ploughed a lot of money into buying food and supplies on Monday to take the pressure off myself over the coming weeks. The stress of going to the market is unbearable, and it was written all over people’s faces in Carrefour on Monday.

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